Thursday, 14 February 2013

Bloggers around the world - a Mexican feast

This month’s theme for Bloggers Around the World by Chris over at Cooking Around the World was Mexico. Well - other than opening a tin of refried beans (a long time ago) and making (once) guacamole from scratch I've never done any actual Mexican cooking despite being a fan of the country's cuisine so I set out to find some interesting recipes to try.
There's a lot with meat in so I hunted a bit further; I wanted to try and find something that I could enjoy whilst being at the same time authentically Mexican.
I met with some success finding this blog and this site both with recipes on, and the second one introduced me to Esquites, a corn based street food complete with cheese, mayo, lime, chilli and the herb Epazote that I’ve never even heard of let alone can get here!  Nevertheless I decided to give it a bash as I love sweetcorn.  After some more searching for an actual recipe I stumbled on this video from a Mexican restaurant and loosely based my version on that.  This was served with Mexican rice (admittedly from a USA site), refried beans (BBC!) and preceded by a Seabass ceviche from here - I’m sad to say that she isn’t Mexican either!
So – how did it go?
The ceviche was super easy to do and tasty too.  It’s the first time I’ve ever made ceviche or indeed eaten it and I was very much taken with it.  Not sure the coconut came through a lot but then I didn’t see coconut making much of an appearance in any other of the Mexican recipes I looked at so I’m not sure how authentic it’s inclusion is or isn’t.  I had a moment’s worry when I realised I had totally forgotten the tortilla chips to serve it with and that my avocado was still rock hard but I muddled though.    We both found this refreshing, though perhaps more of a summer dish.  Although there’s a lot of lime in it (I used the juice of 2 limes as this was enough to cover the fish) it isn’t too overpowering, just being citrusy and zingy.  I added a minimum of avocado to serve and sadly dumped my plan for guacamole to go with the other dishes as the 2 avocado pears I bought at the weekend had obstinately remained too solid to be used yet, despite putting them in a brown paper bag to hasten the ripening process.
Next to be started was the rice.  Here again I had a minor panic when I came to add the rice to the hot oil as I realised I only had about 1.5 cups of long grain white rice rather than the 2 called for.  I made up the quantity with Arborio rice and the dish seemed none the worse for it.  The Chap hadn’t noticed anyway so it can’t have been too bad.  Again this dish is fairly simple to do and I had great hopes of it but… I found myself a little underwhelmed if I’m honest.  It was nice but it didn’t really ‘sing’ to me.  It needed more heat for sure but I still found the flavours a little lacking and the only thing I changed in the recipe was to use veggie stock instead of chicken which I don’t think would have made that much difference. 
I like the idea of whizzing up your raw onion and tomatoes to make the ‘stock’ for it to be cooked in though and I may borrow this technique for future experimentation.  (Although I did manage to break the only tin opener in the house getting into the tin of tomatoes!!)  If you do check the recipe out however I must state that I most definitely do not advocate discarding any extra you may have like the recipe states!!  Put any left in the fridge for use another day like a good frugal bunny.  Oh and one more thing – this made a lot of rice.
Refried beans.  I must admit to having had a previous fling with refried beans many years ago, back when I was at uni in fact when I used to regularly buy a tin (sorry) and eat them…in something?  In what however I have no recollection.  I have been looking at them again on the shops for a year or 2 now and wondering what exactly it was that I did with them and I’m forced to draw the conclusion that I just ate them as they were.  Which seems to be what a lot of people do; they’re just another element to the meal.  The BBC recipe I used was to actually make them for quesadillas, I just used the start of the recipe that told me how to do the beans.  These were tasty enough although another small problem reared its head here when I ran out of smoked paprika; I think this Mexican meal was starting to be jinxed!  This was after I'd opened the tin of beans by going round the edge individually piercing the lid over and over until all the holes joined up. 
I realised I’ve gone off the texture of these a bit in the last decade  and would enjoy them more in a quesadilla with cheese and toasted tortilla for some contrast but I can see me making these again as a fast easy cheap meal.  Not a lot to report other than that.
Which brings us to the part I was looking forward to trying out most – the esquites!!  Complete with some fresh basil and mint and dried tarragon in an effort to replicate the taste of the missing epazote.  Having scribbled some instructions watching the video I set off.  First problem – I couldn’t get the lid off my jar of small dried chillis that looked the closest equivalent I had to what they fried off first in the film.  No matter how I tried it wasn’t coming off, I was hopping about the kitchen sprinkling the environs with a few choice words but to no avail!  So – some finely minced fresh chilli it was instead.  I fried this off for a few minutes stirring pretty much constantly to ensure they didn’t burn, just fragranced the oil nicely.  Next I added the corn which I judged by eye as enough for the 2 of us.  I now have to own up here to using frozen sweetcorn not the fresh off the cob you should really use, that was my entire forgetful fault though rather than the gremlins that had been dogging me so far!  Fry this until slightly browned – it gives off a lovely popcorny sort of smell.  I must admit to being a little impatient plus aware that this was all taking me absolute acres of time and there was a voracious Chap waiting to be fed so mine weren’t quite browned, but the flavour was getting there.  Add the torn up herbs and keep stirring and frying.  After watching the video I used a sprig of fresh basil and one of fresh mint torn up as that was what the chef described the epazote taste like.  If you read the Wiki article however it claims an aniseedy edge to the taste so I added a couple of decent pinches of dried tarragon too.

Serve in a glass dish (for authenticity you understand, or in a paper cup as you would purchase it off the street) topped with mayo, feta (this being the closest you can get to the queso fresco that should be used), a squeeze of lime juice and a sprinkle of chilli powder.  this was my favourite dish by a mile, it had the most taste and as mentioned before I love sweetcorn so it could only ever be a win for me. 
Served all together the 3 dishes following the ceviche certainly filled us up, I did feel the lack of a contrasting texture though; and of course guacamole would have gone down a treat.
So – some interesting ‘finds’ – ceviche is easy and gooood, rice cooks nicely in whizzed up veg  in a dish in the oven – add more flavour and the missing umami note next time though,  and fried sweetcorn with cheese can only ever be fab.  It’s got cheese in it though hasn’t it…  J  And I need to be a bit more generous with the chilli!


  1. I can't get to grips with Mexican food, I tried several times in the 80s but the flavours and textures didn't do it for me. As for guacamole, I'd rather just eat a fresh avocado with salt, lime and paprika, as it comes. That has good texture.

  2. Thanks a lot for still entering. That's how I usually like it ... I mean like having a feast with several dishes ... lovely!


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